A meet-and-greet event fashioned on a speed-dating format attracted several dozen Sooke residents to the Sooke Community Hall last night to meet candidates for mayor, council and Sooke school district.
Candidates were each seated at a table and with a set of chairs in the hopes of attracting and speaking directly to voters to answer some of the tough questions about their reasons for running for public office.
The unique feature of the event was that a gong was rung every seven minutes, signalling “times-up” and compelling those in attendance to leave their chairs and move on to another candidate.
Bernie Klassen, the co-chair of Transition Sooke, said that the unique format was designed to best allow candidates the opportunity to meet the electorate.
“In a general meet and greet there’s always the chance that a candidate will be harangued or lectured at. This format made people approach the candidates in a focused manner with prepared questions,” he said.
Even with the limited time allotment, some of the people in attendance, like Ellen Lewers, found that seven minutes was more than enough time to gauge whether a candidate deserved their vote.
“I didn’t change my mind about who I shouldn’t vote for, but I found a few who I should vote for, and that was a pleasant surprise,” Lewers said.
For Deb Johnston, the process was a heartening experience.
“It was great. Every candidate I spoke to was knowledgeable and passionate, and I might vote for some of them based on what I heard here today,” Johnston said.
It was a sentiment echoed by Tom Myrick who said that he came to the meet-and-greet not knowing much about most of the candidates. He added that the brief encounters were enough to give him an idea of who deserved his vote.
Pam Day came to the event sporting a Maja Tait campaign button but was disappointed with the format, saying that the time with each candidate was just too short to make an informed decision.
And although she had obviously thrown her support to Tait for mayor, she expressed her regret that supporting Tait meant the district would lose Kevin Pearson from local politics.
Two more events are also upcoming with a Mayor’s Candidate Forum scheduled for the Edward Milne Community Theatre on Oct. 3 from 7 to 9 p.m. Each of the three mayoral candidates will be charged with answering a set of questions prepared by Transition Sooke. Following the presentation by each candidate, the audience will be invited to the microphone to pose their own questions.
On Oct. 11, the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce will host an all-candidates debate at the Prestige Hotel.
The election will be held on Oct. 20.